In a family where a lot of cop shows were devoured, Barney Miller fell just outside my era but was something I was aware of in the house, and when the chance came up to review it I figured I would stick a toe in and see what was going on. For a review of previous seasons (as well as the previously released complete series, feel free to check them out here).
For those unfamiliar with the show, it was set in New York's Greenwich Village almost exclusively in a police precinct. The eponymous Miller was Hal Linden (Out to Sea), Captain of the Department. Those under him include Wojo (Max Gail, D.C. Cab), Ron Harris (Ron Glass, Lakeview Terrace), Arthur Dietrich (Steve Landesberg, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Officer Levitt (Ron Carey, High Anxiety). The show follows the squad in their adventures and stays almost exclusively in the precinct room, giving us no place but to relate to the characters and their exploits. And it was a good calling card for many years.
The characters are very much challenging or at least had to be to the viewer during that era. Harris was playing a successful African American on screen, Gail almost was taking up a voice of a post-Vietnam veteran finding his footing back in the world. His past as a soldier even gets some attention with an episode dealing with Agent Orange. Even with the comedy, there was a sense of realism behind the show that made you feel like the jokes were earned, and they usually were.
The show can be a tough adjustment for those used to twenty minute sitcoms full of flashbacks, quick cuts and laugh tracks. And some of the yuks can be a little bit dated to the point of having some cringe to them. But its character development was still running on solid cylinders in its next to last season, combined with its cast and numerous guest stars, the viewer will at the very least get a very solid convincing that this is a New York show, to the point where it could easily have been a dark comedy directed by Lumet during his heyday.
It may not be the funniest show out there, but Barney Miller created memories in different ways, perhaps being one of the first comedies that believed in characters and story as well as the jokes, and serving as a touchstone for any self-respecting television aficionado. It was nice to go through the stroll, but I am a little bit glad that I am through it.The Discs:
Full frame 1.33:1, and Season Seven's twenty two episodes are spread over three discs. They all look about as good as you would figure they would. It would not appear that any notable restoration has been done, and any flaws in the video are inherent in the source. Colors and flesh tones look fine and there is nil in terms of image work on these things. Gritty! New York!The Sound:
Mono tracks for everything. Honestly I was not expecting anything revelatory from a early 80s sitcom and got just that. Dialogue was free of crackling or pops and everything was reproduced well and sounds consistent.Extras:
Nada hermano, nada.Final Thoughts:
An advantage to Season Seven of Barney Miller is that if you are new to the show you can pick it up with little prior ramping up for the viewer. It certainly isn't the days of Vigoda and Jack Soo in the first four seasons, but Seven still had some moments that gave you pause, perhaps welled up, but more often than not made you shown your teeth. Technically, the discs look and sound as anticipated, and the lack of extras, while disappointing, also is unsurprising. Go check out some television from the past, kids.